Juice Fasts: Quick Fix or Quack Fad?

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Lose pounds and inches in just days. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, that's what the ads for popular juice fasts like The Original Celebrity Juice Diet or The Master Cleanser claim. But will these programs really jump- start your weight loss efforts, or catapult you into starvation? Keep reading for the skinny on fasting.

The Diet Details
Svelte star Beyoncé used the Master Cleanser to drop weight for her starring role in the film 'Dreamgirls.' And who hasn't been tempted to by the promise of quick-and-easy weight loss in the form of a great-tasting drink?
While the exact concoctions vary, most juice fasts and cleanses prescribe some kind of liquid-only diet from one to 10 days with the goal of helping you lose weight. These methods claim to "cleanse" an overburdened body by giving it a break from digesting processed foods, and eliminating unhealthy toxins that have accumulated in your body. During that time the only sustenance fasters will ingest is about 32 to 64 ounces of fruit or vegetable juices, occasionally diluted with water. Many fasts will recommend using only organic fruits and vegetables to minimize the intake of environmental toxins from pesticides and herbicides.

The Original Celebrity Juice Diet, available in drug stores, comes in the form of a concentrate and retails for about $20 for two bottles. The Master Cleanser, which first made a big splash in the '70s, has made a strong comeback in recent years, provides a recipe to make your own "detox" drink -- a blend of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. There are numerous other fasts available in health food stores and online being promoted as "colon cleansers," "detoxifiers" or promise to provide "cellular rejuvenation."

The Drawbacks
Because these diets severely restrict caloric and sodium intake, you will drop weight fast. But it can be incredibly difficult to stick with this kind of regime, not only because of the limited menu, but also because of the physical weakness some fasters experience due to low calorie consumption. Another con? Sure, you may lose a few pounds, but most of the pounds lost are water weight, which is usually quickly regained after ending the fast.

Furthermore, fasts generally provide an incomplete source of calories and overall nutrition and therefore are not recommended for individuals who are pregnant, or have Diabetes Mellitus, an eating disorder, kidney or liver disease, gout, asthma, or impaired immune function. Anyone with a chronic disease should consult their physician before even considering a fast, says Tricia Bland, MPH, RD, and Certified Personal Trainer. "The human body requires carbohydrates, protein, fat and water for normal metabolic processes to occur. If one of these substrates is eliminated, normal metabolism can become impaired and a deficiency can result," she says.

Some of the other documented negative side effects of fasting include headaches, low blood sugar, dizziness, fatigue, bad breath, hunger, constipation and diarrhea. "Additionally, the lack of protein in juice fasts can result in a decrease in blood proteins which can affect the way prescription drugs are absorbed," warns Bland. An important consideration for anyone taking medication.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a certified fitness instructor and health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in Prevention, Women’s Health, Weight Watchers, and Fitness magazines.

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